Grand Jury to Hear Case of NYPD Shooting Near Empire State Building

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The FBI is on the scene of a multiple shooting near the Empire State Building. (Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

The New York City Police Department’s shooting death of Jeffrey Johnson will go before a Manhattan grand jury Monday. That’s standard practice for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in any fatal police shooting.

Police officials have said the shooting was justified, given the circumstances: Johnson had just fatally shot another man and then pointed a gun at two officers who approached him during rush hour on W. 33rd Street in Manhattan. Nine bystanders were also injured in the incident — all by NYPD bullets or bullet fragments.

Experts agree that the key issue in any review of this incident is whether the officers’ actions were reasonable.

“If the officers believed their lives or the lives of others are in danger, then they are authorized to use deadly force,” said Eugene O’Donnell, professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He said the next question is how much force is required to stop the threat.

“There’s no clear answer usually,” O’Donnell said.

A surveillance video of the incident shows Johnson pointed his gun at two police officers on a busy sidewalk. The officers fired, as people around them fled.

Below is video released by the NYPD of the officers' confrontation with Johnson. It contains graphic images.

While the shooting may be deemed justified, the incident has raised legitimate concerns over whether the NYPD's actions were a threat to public safety.

“It’s not the wild west,” said Sanford Rubenstein, a personal injury lawyer who has sued the NYPD in several high profile cases, including the death of Sean Bell, who was killed by police after leaving his bachelor party in 2006.

“People who are innocent bystanders should not be put at risk of death possibly, or being wounded, if it’s not ‘reasonable’ for the officers to take the action that they took,” said Rubenstein. He added he will meet with the family of one of the victims to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit.

According to NYPD data, the department has significantly reduced incidents of police involved shootings since the 1970's when it began documenting every time an officer fires a weapon.

At its peak, there were 994 incidents in 1972. In 2010, the most recent year data is available, there were 92 incidents.


More in:

Comments [10]

clive betters

@ john from the office

stereotype: what the hell does that mean? sandford, is fighting for people with historical disadvantage[which still exits today]. if he's a "stereotype", who the hell cares? you are, so much about style over substance,but, why is that not surprizing, coming from the likes of you. you seem to live in a world of caricature,so, that's an especially ironic, and contradictory thing, for you to say.

Aug. 27 2012 08:29 PM
Osterdeich from in der Nähe von New York

Agree with John from Office. Also, there are assumptions that bullets missed and hit bystanders. Rounds can penetrate and exit if bone isn't struck in a body. News stories said shell fragments were part of the bystander injuries. Is it possible exiting bullets hit objects and shattered, spraying the near area with shrapnel?

Can we at least allow the process to determine whether the cops were at fault? They were presented with a situation where a man presented a gun that he just used to murder someone. How did they have a choice?

Had they not taken this man out some of you would be complaining about how the cops didn't do the right thing.

Aug. 27 2012 01:24 PM
CK from Yorktown

I'd like to side with the police: clearly this man was a danger to others. But how is it that they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn? If you're going to use lethal force, you've got to hit the target.

Again, fast response, had to manage a person who could have been the next version of the theater shooter but if instead, you have this much collateral damage, you have to wonder what the training was for this group.

Aug. 27 2012 01:10 PM
john from office

Wow, everybody is an expert. What were to cop supposed to do, allow themselves to get shot?? People are brave with other peoples lives.

Aug. 27 2012 12:26 PM
Mike from Manhattan

Clearly an absurd use of force. I am surprised it took this long for people to start questioning wtf is going on in the NYPD after 9 people minding their own business get shot by the police???? My friends in other cities couldn't even comprehend the story when they heard about it.

Aug. 27 2012 12:19 PM
bob from Jersey

Horrifying use of force.

Aug. 27 2012 11:48 AM

Well that certainly was a post-modern situation. It's real life but it looks like a hackneyed shootout from a 50s gangster flick. The way the shooter falls looks so bogus if he was an actor he'd be fired for being unbelievable. Then again maybe that silver screen imagery was embedded in his subconscious and in the heat of the moment he imitated art.

Aug. 27 2012 09:42 AM
kb from NY, NY

I think it was meant to be "death by cop"--the shooter didn't plan to get away. He was distraught. It seems simplistic to blame the whole horrible situation on the economy, but his year-long unemployment "seemingly" set the stage for this awful murder. How many of the other shooting sprees popping up across the country can be attributed to the economy and this feeling of helplessness?

Aug. 27 2012 09:34 AM
john from office

Sanford Rubenstein, a sterotype if ever there was one.

Aug. 27 2012 09:11 AM
clive betters

makes no sense...what were the cops suppossed to do. i think the pot-smoking knife wielder,merits an ivestigation,but not this. was his life less important? in addition, they had time to act differently in that case. the situation developed over time,and could have perahaps, been handled with less lethal methods.

Aug. 27 2012 04:56 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by